Insisting that judo is a priority game for India, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Monday said his ministry would leave no stone unturned in providing all assistance to the country’s judokas in their bid to qualify for next year’s Tokyo Olympics. Also Read - Just The Beginning of my Career, Need to Improve on Many Aspects: India Hockey Midfielder Vivek Prasad

Rijiju said the government is working with the national federation of the game in creating a strong talent pool keeping in mind the 2024 and 2028 Olympics. Also Read - We Have Identified a Few Areas That Need Fine-Tuning: Midfielder Nilakanta Sharma

The minister made the statements during a meeting with the members of the Indian judo team at his residence here ahead of their departure to Hungary for the Budapest Grand Slam which is an Olympic qualification event, to be held from October 23 to 25. Also Read - Great to Have a Balance of Youth And Experienced Players: India Defender Deep Grace Ekka

The contingent comprises five judokas and coach Jiwan Sharma.

“The team is leaving for Hungary today and I am hopeful that some of the athletes will qualify. Judo is a priority sport for us and we will enhance capacity both in terms of training facilities and coaches,” Rijiju said.

“The idea is to extend full support to the elite athletes while building up a talent pool of young athletes who can compete in the Olympics of 2024 and 2028. We will discuss a more exhaustive roadmap with the federation and plan ahead.”

This will be the first tournament for the the Indian judokas since the nationwide lockdown was imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Indian men judoka Jasleen Singh Saini, ranked 56 in the world and a good prospect to qualify for next year’s Olympics, said, “I am feeling very positive after meeting the Sports Minister. He spoke to us and shared his knowledge which is really helpful.

“This will be the first tournament we will be playing after the Covid lockdown. We used to play every month earlier, so it is really good to be playing again.”

Around 645 competitors from 81 countries will be participating in this tournament and the contingent is excited to be back in action in competitive sport after such a long break.

Sushila Devi, the highest ranked Indian women judoka at world no 41, said, “This is the first time we have met the Sports Minister and he is really doing a lot for sports in India so with his encouragement, we are feeling very motivated.”

Other judokas participating in the meet are Tulika Mann, Avtar Singh and Vijay Yadav.